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Old 10-16-2010, 11:07 AM   #1
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Hi, last weekend, my fiance and I pulled up the vinyl flooring in our kitchen. The flooring dated back to, I'm guessing, the 90s, and it is still sold at Home Depot. We wanted to pull it up because it looked ugly, was very hard to clean, and it had been installed poorly. We could bring up most tiles with a butter knife.

Underneath, we found a pebbly, sand-colored, fold linoleum tile from the 1960s, probably original to the house, which was built in 1965. It had the consistency of cork. Very springy. We looked underneath it and found black padding about 1/4 inch thick, and under that was the plywood subfloor.

The 1960s linoleum tile was filthy. It had black, greasy scum in the "grout" areas between the little sand-colored pebbles. The person who had installed the vinyl flooring over it had just sparingly glued it down right over the dirty floor!

After pulling up all the vinyl flooring, we scrubbed the old linoleum floor with some sort of floor cleaner that my fiance had bought at Best. We scrubbed for hours, on our hands and knees, and got it clean. It looked great! Then, we went on with life.

In about an hour, we smelled this awful smell, like a chemical manufacturing plant gone wrong. Overnight, the vapors built up and spread throughout our home. We both woke up with sinus issues and sore throats the next day.

My fiance is smart, but he looks for the easiest workarounds to problems. So, he asked me to clean the floor again, which I did, this time, with bleach. As the days progressed, the outgassing continued. The awful, chemical smell is still bad, if not worse -- throughout the house and in everything -- I guess maybe even my clothes and hair, because even when I am away from home, I still smell it.

The vapors aren't bothering him as much, but after a week of them, I had trouble getting out of bed today. I passed out on the couch last night. My head is hazy. What am I breathing?

The floor is now covered with every throw rug in the house, but the outgassing is still happening, coming up through the rugs. What is going on in our house and how do we fix it?

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Old 10-16-2010, 03:10 PM   #2
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


What floor cleaner did you use? It sounds like it reacted with the linoleum or more likely the left over adhesive. Can you remove the linoleum and dispose of it? It doesn't sound like it is worth keeping anyway. Keep in mind that there is the possibility of asbestos in the adhesive or linoleum. I am certain one of the flooring professionals can advise you on that issue. The presence of asbestos dictates the way in which the linoleum can be safely removed but does not explain the fumes you complain of.

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Old 10-16-2010, 03:45 PM   #3
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


The black stuff is probably cutback adhesive. Your cleaner probably caused a chemical reaction with it. I am not a chemist so I wouldn't know what to do with it. The adhesive and flooring more than likely both contain asbestos.
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Old 10-16-2010, 04:07 PM   #4
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


We used Lundmark Poly-Clean: Cleaner Concentrate for Polyurethane Floors.

And, we didn't dilute it; we just poured it right onto the floor because it was so dirty. I guess that was a bad move.

Is linoleum polyurethane? I know nothing about this.

After the floor started to stink like a chemical refinery in trouble, I thought about asbestos and researched it as best as I could. We produced no dust, and I didn't see any loose particulate, even when we lifted up the old linoleum to see what was underneath. It seems that as long as the floor isn't disturbed, asbestos won't be the issue.

Whatever chemical reaction occurred between the poly-clean and the floor or the glue is really getting to me. We air out the house every day, but I'm not sure how to stop the outgassing. Does the floor really need to be removed completely?
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Old 10-16-2010, 04:42 PM   #5
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Not an expert but I'll share what I believe to be true. Linoleum is a linseed oil product and does not have polyurethane. Sounds like the cleaner was made for hardwood floors that were sealed with polyurethane. Do you have to remove the linoleum? No, if it has asbestos as Rusty suggests, it is probably better not to disturb it and simply cover it. However, under ordinary circumstances the best flooring jobs start with a clean slate. What new floorin g product do you want to put down?
I would doubt that a chemical reaction is still occuring at this point and if you have the windows open for ventillation things should improve. One solution to reduce the fumes would be to seal the floor but I could not say which product will do that. Perhaps your local home center will suggest something. I don't think the bleach had any positive effect and it can actually make things worse. But I understand why you would want to try something under the circumstances.
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Old 10-16-2010, 04:46 PM   #6
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Lundmark Poly-Clean looks to contain ammonia?
When you used bleach and they mixed, you may have created poisonous gas.
If this is true, it could be a very bad thing to breathe.....

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Old 10-16-2010, 05:00 PM   #7
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


The chemical you were exposed to is called 2 butoxyethanol. It may cause respiratory problems even w/o reacting to other substances. It is not an ammonia compound but sounds nasty nevertheless. You can learn more about this chemical by following this link:
http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=346&tid=61
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Old 10-16-2010, 05:25 PM   #8
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


By the way, the label for Lundmark poly clean says one quart makes up to 32 gallons so using it full strength was (as you suggested) the reason you experienced such a severe problem. I am guessing the container says something like "use only with adequate ventillation."
Washing the floor with plain water to remove the remants of this product, if any, might help. Also keep the windows open. Eventually things will improve.
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Old 10-17-2010, 09:43 PM   #9
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Hi, and thank you for your replies. Actually, the bottle of Lundmark Poly-Clean says nothing about having to ventilate the area where cleaning occurs. My fiance also now states that he followed the directions on the bottle and used only 1/4 cup of cleaner in a 1/2 bucket of water.

Tomorrow, I will remove the rugs we put over the floor and clean with water while ventillating, and if it helps, I will let you know.

Today, we looked at installing a wood, floating floor, not Pergo, but something a bit more durable, of wood. My fiance says we can install it right over the linoleum. Is this true, or do we need to install some type of subfloor before installing the wood flooring?

Also, if we install the wood flooring, will the old linoleum continue to outgas from underneath (as it is doing from under the rugs), or will the floor finally be fully sealed with no more smell wafting into the air, for example, when the heat is on and the windows are closed?

BTW, thank you for all replies we have received and those to be received in the future. This forum is great. It is a pleasure to learn from experts.
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Old 10-17-2010, 10:06 PM   #10
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Also, the health issues described in the link on 2-butoxyethanol and 2-butoxyethanol acetate sum up the health issues I'm having (sore throat, irritated eyes and sinus membranes, cough, nausea), but what we're smelling isn't a fruity smell as the article describes. It's a bitter, dry, inorganic chemical smell (as opposed to an organic odor, such as dirt, mold, or decomposing plant or animal matter), not metallic or with any traces of a metallic smell, but I've smelled something like it before once, after rubbing some kind of rock, maybe calcite, between my hands during a science class when I was kid. The smell reminds me of stone that has been rubbed hard, and maybe, possibly, a sort of rubber smell to it, but not like a dirty sneaker or a burning tire. I really can't describe it, except that it's bad, and it's chemical.

The water/bleach mixture really didn't seem to make a difference either way. The smell was there before I used the water/bleach mixture, and just as strong. Fortunately, bleach isn't the culprit.

Hopefully, cleaning with plain water will help weaken it. Maybe the smell will wash away and I'll start to feel better. It doesn't seem to be bothering my fiance anymore.

Please let me know if you think the floating wood floor can be installed over the linoleum we have and if it will seal the smell for good.

My fiance says that due to the cork-like flexibility of the linoleum floor we have and its 1/4" padding underneath, we cannot install tile flooring without completely ripping up the current floor, including the linoleum, padding, and the plywood underneath.

I really do not want us to attempt to tear up the floor. Not only will it be a lot of work, but he refuses to believe that there may be asbestos in either the linoleum or the padding underneath, and he will not follow the required precautions of using a respirator and wetting the flooring to prevent dust. Why, I do not know, but he is a very stubborn person. So, maybe the floating wood floor is the way to go?
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Old 10-18-2010, 11:36 AM   #11
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


I believe the smell will go away by itself. Even oil based polyurethane odor will be gone in a few days and I find that odor particularly annoying. Just ventilate and be patient.
Floating floors are pretty forgiving but whether you can apply one to the existing floor depends upon just how spongy the floor is. I applied a floating laminate floor and I was trying to picture what it would have been lke on a spongy floor instead of plywood. Probably not very good.
Here's my suggestion. Look on the website for the product you are thinking of using and see what the manufacturer recommends. You'd be surprised at the wealth of info you can get.
Also check back to DIY Chatroom and see what the pros who do this kind of work day in and out suggest. I respect their opinions. I don't know enough to give you a definitive answer and without seeing the condition of your current floor it's possible that no one will be able too. Sorry I could not be more helpful.
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Old 10-19-2010, 02:26 AM   #12
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


Thank you for the useful information. I do not know yet who the manufacturer is, but I'll look it up and research it. Forgot to air out the place today, yet stayed home inhaling the fumes which have diminished about 50% but still linger in the air throughout the house.

The linoleum floor isn't super spongy -- it is less spongy than Pergo for sure, but spongier than hardwood for sure. It's much like a cork floor, actually. We were both surprised by this.

I'm really glad to hear that the fumes will dissipate! That is the best news I've heard all day!
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Old 10-19-2010, 05:23 PM   #13
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


One final suggestion: check to see if the laminate you want to install is recommended for kitchen flooring. The reason I suggest this is because ordinary laminate flooring is easily damaged by standing water. The best choices for kitchen flooring, in my opinion, would be sheet vinyl, vinyl tiles or ceramic. Of those choices ceramic would be the most difficult to install as a do it your self project. Maybe you can lay a new piece of vinyl right over the linoleum if you are looking for a low cost, easy install alternative.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:30 PM   #14
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Outgassing Causing Awful Smell in Very Old Flooring, What Should We Do?


i believe the smell is from the black adhesive they used to adhere the linoleum tile to the subfloor. This adhesive is a tar based adhesive. I had it in my house under the kitchen linoleum and the only way i could get rid of it was to put tile over it because tile is air tight when grouted.

Also in my house i have hardwood floors and i believe they used a similar adhesive for these floors. I am wondering if i put a thick carpet pad and carpet over them the smell will be sealed in or will it seep through the carpet.

The ony alternative i can think of besides carpet is vinyl roll, but who wants that in their living room

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